Thursday, 15 January 2009

Crazy is good

Crazy is a word that is supposed to be bad. This is because crazy means non-conformity, and non-conformity is bad. Society functions best when people do what they are supposed to and play inside the box. But non-conforming people do good things as well. Explorers, artists, designers, scientists and philosophers have changed the way we think about life and see the world by breaking the mould and doing things that are out of the ordinary.

Don't worry. This isn't going to be a sycophantic post trying to draw out a comparison with Van Gogh or James Cook or Phil Spector or Galileo, but there is a point of principle here.

I remember being called crazy. Once I was on a training run with a friend over an alpine pass in New Zealand. The weather was reasonably good and we were wearing light running gear with thermals underneath. We hit a snowstorm near the top and had to double-time it through the pass as temperatures started dropping fast. Tired, we stopped for a break and some temporary shelter at a mountain hut, shooing high-country sheep out from under the porch. Inside were two mountain men dressed in full alpine climbing gear, sipping hot tea. They stared at our running kit.

"What the hell are you boys doing?"

"Training run. For rowing."

They looked at each other. "You're crazy"

(At this point I should add that this run was nothing compared to the Ben Nevis efforts a few months ago. While the pass was cold, there was no horizontal rain, and we could see. If this was crazy, Ben Nevis was pure lunacy.)

Anyway I digress. We got to the bottom and felt good, both because of a good day's training, and yes, because we had been called crazy. Going out of the ordinary comfort zone feels good, and doing things that others wouldn't feels good. If nothing else, it reminds you that you're alive.

I also remember a crazy experience in Bolivia. I mountainbiked down a road that is listed as the world's most dangerous road by the UN. It's not really a road - it's a broken wet track on a sheer cliff that drops 11,000 feet into the jungle. "Irresponsible and crazy" was the judgment of some offended tourists my group met afterwards. Crazy? It was freaking awesome.

I think most of us were crazy from time-to-time when we were younger. It's expected, and healthy, for boundaries to be tested and limits to be pushed. It lets you know what you are capable of (and sometimes, what you're not). For most of us, age and day jobs and relationships and responsibility have knocked crazy into the memory banks and photo albums. Getting drunk on Friday night isn't crazy, nor is sweating it out at the gym on Saturday to make up for it. So if crazy is incompatible with regular life, is it bad after all?

At the promotional freeze a few weeks back, a group of us were jogging away from Trafalgar Square. Stopping at the trafic lights, a curious bystander asked what we were doing. "Raising money for charity by playing cricket on Everest."

"What? Everest? As in Mount Everest?" Eyebrows raised, a slightly incredulous look.


"Wow. You guys are crazy."


Crazy is good.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The Everest Test 2009 Fundraising Party

Quite simply, superb. That's the only way to describe the Everest Test fundraising party held last night at The Collection in South Kensington. Organised by the intrepid Trektators, the party was our first chance to invite supporters and friends to what we hoped would be a showcase event for our sponsorship campaign. (For those of you new to the Everest Test challenge, the Trektators are the invaluable travelling support crew making the trip up the mountain.) I arrived with friends, who were expecting to have a couple of mid-week drinks before heading home. Down the hallway and into the club for the champagne reception, we stopped. "Wow", said one. "This looks - amazing", said another. And it did. The Collection had been transformed by the collective interior-design skills of the Trektators. From the photographs of team members in training that lined the entrance hall, to the Everest slideshow turning over in the background, to the funky decorations draped between glamorous barstaff who were decked out in the test team colours, not to mention the glamorous guests, this looked more like the launch party for a Bond movie.

By 8pm the club was already packed. Getting from one side of the bar to the other was a challenge, and mingling required a skillful shuffling technique. The Collection barstaff stepped up to the challenge, and somehow managed to ensure that drinks circulated the room. Haydn also managed to circulate, taking the fundraising to new heights by selling the official balloons. Kirt and Wes leaned against the bar with a look of pride. This was intended to be the spearhead of the Everest Test 2009 fundraising campaign, and it was going off with a bang.

Even the music was great: Susie Clarks acoustic set and Bongo Beats from Brazil provided the perfect backdrop for the night. No-one danced, simply because there wasn't any room. The dancefloor had been overrun by a swirling crowd of supporters and Test team members, enjoying the champagne and cocktails that flowed courtesy of the ever-smiling Collection team. The night flew by, and it was only South Kent's licensing laws that finally called a close on the night's entertainment. If they hadn't, then we would still be going.

I've had a number of messages already about last night. "10/10" and "awesome" give you the idea.

So it's a huge thanks to Alex and her team for organising a wonderful night. They will be justifiably delighted with the outcome. It's also a huge thanks to all of those who came along in support. There will be more of these events to come: so please stay tuned in and wait for details! Your ongoing support means a tremendous amount to us, and last night gave a massive lift to the Everest Test teams. Everyone who attended came away inspired and re-invigorated for the long months of slog ahead. It was a great party and a chance to relax, but no-one is kidding themselves about the hard work that lies ahead. Six months to go, and counting, with everything still to play for. Currahee.